Handicapped space violation in Irwindale leads to arrest of wanted ex-con, seizure of drugs and gun

IRWINDALE >> Police arrested an ex-con with drugs, a loaded handgun and an active arrest warrant after approaching him for illegally parking in a handicapped stall outside an Irwindale convenience store early Saturday, authorities said.
James Matthew Doke, 31, of Duarte was ultimately booked on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, heroin possession and possession of methamphetamine for sales, according to Irwindale police Sgt. Rudy Gatto. He was also being held on a warrant for violating the terms of his “Post-Release Community Supervision” felony probation under AB 109 guidelines.
The alleged inconsiderate parking violation first drew the attention of an officer about 3:20 a.m. to an ARCO gas station and ampm minimart at 16000 E. Foothill Blvd.
“During the course of the officer’s investigation, the officer found that the subject had an active ‘no bail’ warrant for his arrest,” Gatto said in a written statement.
After detaining Doke in connection with the warrant, “It was subsequently found that the suspect was in possession of a loaded semi-automatic handgun, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana,” Gatto said. “It was also found that the subject was a convicted felon.”
Police took Doke into custody without a struggle.
In addition to small amounts of heroin and recently-legalized marijuana, officers seized about 10 grams of methamphetamine, along with “paraphernalia that would be indicative of narcotics sales,” Gatto said.
Doke’s extensive criminal history dates back to age 19, Los Angeles County Superior Court records show.
He was convicted of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and forging an officials government seal in 2004. A charge of check fraud was dismissed.
Doke was convicted of being under the influence of drugs in 2005, as well as auto theft and resisting or obstructing police in 2006, records show.
He pleaded “no contest” to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer in 2011, while a charge of auto theft with a prior auto theft conviction was dismissed.
Doke was again convicted of resisting or obstructing police in 2011. A charge of possession of a stun gun by a convicted felon was dropped.
In 2013, Doke was convicted of auto theft with a prior auto theft conviction, and his probation was revoked for a violation later the same year.
He was arrested once more on Nov. 17, 2016, for violation his AB 109 felony probation. He received a sentence of 40 days in jail, but was released after 10.
Officials filed another allegation of violating his felony probation in October of 2016, but Doke failed to appear in court, resulting in the warrant on which he was being sought at the time of his arrest on Sunday morning.
Under AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, those convicted of crimes deemed, “non-serious,” “nonviolent,” and “non-sexual,” can be supervised by county probation departments, rather than the more stringent oversight of state parole agents.
In determining eligibility, the law considers only convicts’ most recent conviction — in the case of Doke, auto theft — and not prior offenses. And critics of the legislation, such as the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in Los Angeles, have pointed out that crimes including assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer are considered to be a nonviolent offenses for the purposes of AB 109.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Doke was being held without bail at the Glendora Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The law, as well as others aimed at meeting a federal mandate to reduce overcrowding in California prisons, has come under renewed scrutiny from critics in recent weeks after Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer was shot to death on Feb. 20, allegedly by a gang member with a lengthy criminal history who had been in and out of jail five times in the eight months prior to the deadly shooting.

PHOTO: Police arrested a wanted ex-convict and seized this handgun, along with methampetamine, heroin and marijuana, after approaching a Duarte man for illegally parking in a handicapped parking space outside an ampm minimart at 16000 E. Foothill Blvd. in Irwindale on Sunday, March 26, 2017. (Courtesy, Irwindale Polcie Department)

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Gang member charged in slaying of Whittier police officer, cousin

WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.

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Cops visit dozens of San Gabriel Valley parolees, probationers; 4 arrested, weapons and drugs seized

0526_NWS_SGT-L-SWEEP

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> San Gabriel Valley sheriff’s deputies and police officers arrested four suspects and recovered weapons and drugs Tuesday when they teamed up for a compliance sweep targeting parolees and those under AB 109 felony probation in the San Gabriel Valley, officials said.
More than 40 law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the West Covina, Covina, Baldwin Park took part in the early-morning operation, joined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, state parole agents, county probation officers and representatives from the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services, according to sheriff’s Lt. Pete Cacheiro, who oversees law enforcement for the city of La Puente.
After visiting more than 30 homes of convicts, officials arrested a parolee for being a felon in possession of a loaded handgun in La Puente, Cacheiro said.
Officials arrested three AB 109 probationers in West Covina, he said. One was arrested for possession of a Taser by a felon, one was jailed for possession of ammunition by a felon and one is accused of possession of methamphetamine for sales.
The task force operation, “exemplified out community policing strategies,” Cacheiro said.
La Puente City Manager David Carmany commended the effort in a written statement. “
“Our local law enforcement strives to maintain our communities safe and provide quality services to our residents,” he said.

Law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the San Gabriel Valley prepare for parole and probation compliance sweep at their command post at the Plaza West Covina shopping mall on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (Courtesy, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

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Whittier man accused of knifepoint robbery


WHITTIER >> A man robbed another man a knifepoint in Uptown Whittier Wednesday afternoon, police said.
Richard Joseph Torres, 38, of Whittier — who was already on felony probation for a 2013 conviction — was arrested on suspicion of robbery, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County Superior Court and booking records.
Police responded to a report of a robbery about 2 p.m. in the 6200 block of Bright Avenue in which Torres robbed another man of his money at knifepoint, Whittier police Officer John Scroggins said.
“Apparently, the suspect and victim are known to one another,” he said. Their exact relationship was unclear.
Officers quickly found and arrested Torres in connection with the crime, Scroggins said.
According to court records, Torres was already on felony probation under AB 109 guidelines after pleading “no contest” in July of 2013 of interfering or resisting police by means of force or threat.
Previous Los Angeles County convictions include auto theft and drug possession.
Torres was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance Friday, records show.

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Ex-cons arrested for burglary, gun possession in Pasadena


PASADENA >> Police arrested two convicted felons from Mission Hills in connection with a Pasadena auto burglary early Saturday and seized a loaded handgun from their car, officials said.
Officers conducting a “directed patrol” aimed at suppressing burglaries about 4:50 a.m. spotted a parked car that had been broken into at Colorado and San Gabriel boulevards, Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said.
The also saw another car driving in the immediate area and pulled it over, suspecting it may have been related to the break-in, he said.
Both the driver, Cornelio Felix, 33, and passenger, Giovanni Prado, 21, were wearing gloves, Mercado said. Police soon discovered that Felix was an ex-convict, and Prado was on Post-Release Community Supervision following a robbery conviction under California’s AB 109 guidelines, which allows “non-violent, non-serious and non-sex offenders” to be dealt with by county jails and probation agencies, rather than state prisons and parole agents.
Mercado said police found a loaded handgun under the passenger seat of suspects’ car, along with burglary tools in the back.
Felix and Prado were both booked on suspicion of burglary, Mercado said. Prado was additionally accused of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
According to county booking records, Felix and Prado were released from custody later in the morning pending their initial court appearances after posting $20,000 and $50,000 bail, respectively.

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West Covina man arrested; cache of guns, drugs seized from home

WEST COVINA >> A police task force arrested a convicted felon Tuesday and seized a cache of 27 guns — including an assault rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition and methamphetamine during a probation compliance check at his West Covina home, officials said.
Michael Louis Urac, 42, is accused of possession of an unauthorized assault weapon, possession of firearms by a convicted felon and possession of controlled substances and a firearm, according to Pomona police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The bust took place about 7:30 a.m. at Urac’s home in the 100 block of North Lang Avenue in West Covina, Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez of the San Gabriel Valley East AB Task Force said in a written statement. Officers showed up for a probations compliance sweep, as Urac is on probation from am previous drug-related conviction.
Task force members found Urac at the home and arrested him after finding him to be in possession of methamphetamine, Sanchez said.
“During the subsequent search of his residence, a false door was located within the garage,” the sergeant said. In it were several rifles, including an assault rifle with scope and laser, and thousands of rounds of live ammunition. Several more rifles were located inside a separate bedroom belonging to the suspect. In total, 26 rifled (and) shotguns were recovered, including an assault rifle.”
Police also seized several high-capacity magazines from Urac’s home and a loaded, .380-caliber handgun from his car, Sanchez said.
According to county booking records, Urac posted $50,000 bail and the same day of his arrest and was released from custody pending his initial court appearance.
The San Gabriel Valley East AB 109 Task Force is comprised of officers from 10 San Gabriel Valley police agencies, officials said. The team’s primary task is conducting compliance checks on convicts released from custody under the guidelines of AB 109, also known as the 2011 Public Safety Realignment.

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